Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gender Balance Mechanisms

I AM A MAN and I have to admit that we live in a world designed by men, run by men mainly for the benefit of men. In a world like that, when opportunities arise, men are, in general, seen as the best person for the job. Far too many believe it, women as well as men, and when there is some sort of mixed-gender selection most people automatically think the guy would be “the best person for the job”. They think that because most of us were brought up believe that men are better than women; and many men believe (even if only subconsciously) they have some sense of entitlement. If it were not so boardrooms the world over would not be filled with men; Parliaments the world over would not be filled by men. Leaders of nations, states, cities, communities would not be mostly men.
Yet, we see this today, we have always seen this and can we honestly say they are all best person for the job? While I am not rich or anything like that, I have done not too badly from that kind of thinking.

I am speaking in a general sense here when I say women are seen as inferior in our world. Any reasonable person knows women are not inferior. However, it can appear to be so simply because women do not have the same opportunities open to them as men do. For that reason alone far too many women do not have the confidence to take on tasks they have, or could easily develop, the skills for. At the same time far too many men are over-confident in their abilities. It is my experience that women are as capable in ANY job as their male counterparts, they simply have fewer opportunities to express themselves. When the braver among them do, the "male-safe" machinery kicks into action to ridicule and demean them. Opportunities for women to advance are much less than they are for men – there is no doubt about that. Even when women show they can compete, and be even better than their male colleagues, the male-safe kicks in again to ensure opportunities are limited and HE gets paid more. It is all so REASONABLE, but then, men have had thousands of years to perfect it, and the seriously discriminatory "male-safe" has most certainly been perfected.

A very few women do manage to get to the top these days, but glass ceilings don’t just appear out of thin air, they are put there deliberately. A woman having to behave like a man to get on in a man’s world is not gender equality, or anything like it.
So, how do we, as fair-minded people with a desire for equality, overcome this – how do we make a fair and equal society?

Well, we could simply say to society: “stop it!” and, yes, that will happen, right? Or, we positively discriminate for a period of time so that women can at least have a chance of competing with their male colleagues; and develop their skills and competencies, of which they have plenty. As it happens, when we put a Gender Balance Mechanism (GBM) in place the first thing you will hear is: “no, we want the 'best person' for the job!” Replacing the word ‘man' with ‘person’ does absolutely nothing to make what we think and do fair or equal in a gender sense. What they are really saying is that the guy is most likely to be best so we can’t exclude him. This is a spurious argument at the very least. I ask this: how can you ever know who the best person for the job is when for millennia we have favoured only one gender as leaders and decision-makers? That makes around 6 billion individuals discriminated against and excluded throughout ancient and modern civilisations! I must ask, how has that worked out for the world?

Gender Balance Mechanisms can help redress this bias. Yes, in the first instance some good guys might miss out (and I have personally fallen foul of it a couple of times), but ALL women have been missing out for thousands of years! A GBM is only a tool, the real way to redress the balance is to think differently, to want equality and to reach out and grab it, for only then will equality and fairness be sustainable and not just a passing fad.

Has GBM given us a numpty woman in a job they just couldn’t do? Of course it has, but how many numpties in suits were chosen as best person for the job? Think on how many women have we seen given the chance who, at the outset struggled, but grew into the task and have, ultimately, done very well? That would be most of them, in my estimation.

We must give GBM a chance. Women have the right to this; women have the right to become best person for the job, because many of them are – even if they don’t know it yet. If it is done right then eventually we won’t need GBM anymore and we will truly be choosing the 'best person' for the job.

I say this as a member of the Scottish National Party. I support Scottish independence and during the last referendum we all had the same clarion call, not just the SNP but all the other independence campaigners: “we want a more equal and fair country!” we cried. Fairness and equality were, and are, the watchwords of Scottish independence – to be inclusive and look after the weak and the vulnerable in our society. All this was in the face of rising misogyny, racism and religious intolerance. These are no longer rising; they have reached a peak.

For me the marked difference between both camps was this:
Unionist Better Together Groups: ME, MY PENSION, MY JOB, MY COUNTRY, MY POUND!
Equality is about US/WE, not about ME. You either have equality or you don’t. You either have fairness or you don’t. There is no halfway house, no sort of equality, and no partial fairness. Equality and fairness exist or they don’t.

So I ask my friends who oppose GBMs: is the current way we do things fair and equal for both genders? If you think that it is you must explain to me why there are so many incompetent men in powerful jobs – men who are so wrong for the positions they hold – men who had been chosen “best person for the job” in our current system of selection. It is an emotive argument, but it is the way I see it.

To be fair, things are slightly better for some women in some areas of society, but with a hard won and fragile equality so easily lost in the face of a fast growing misogyny. I think if we want a permanently fair and more equal society I believe we need to choose between WE and ME.